Putting It Together: Sociological Research

People eating outside at a table filled with large platters of colorful food.
Figure 1. Outdoor cafe in Yangon, Myanmar.

In this module, you learned the ways that empirical and interpretive scholarly research differ from what we might consider self-evident common sense. Sociologists must adhere to a plethora of ethical guidelines that must be part of a written research plan before they conduct research on human subjects. When sociological research is founded on scientific data, we can get a much more accurate depiction of how people live and behave. You learned about how sociologists use the scientific method to test hypotheses and gather data:

  1. First, we ask a question.
  2. Then we review existing studies to see if someone has already studied this particular issue.
  3. Next, we set up a method by which to study the hypothesis and gather our data.
  4. After conducting our study, we look at the answers we have found and draw a conclusion.
  5. Finally, we report our findings so that those who come after us will have the benefit of our studies.

You saw that there are a number of strategies sociologists might use in order to conduct their studies, including the strengths and weaknesses of these methods. Depending on the question being asked, a sociologist might use one of these approaches:

  1.    Surveys
  2.    Field Research
  3.    Participant Observation
  4.    Ethnography
  5.    Case Study
  6.    Experiments
  7.    Secondary Data Analysis

Which method would you select to examine the scene in Figure 1? Why? What would you need to consider before you begin your research?

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